This interview is part of “Netflix Cooking School," Delish’s new partnership with Netflix where we bring readers exclusive content tied to the premieres of some of their most popular new (and returning!) food shows.
In this piece, you'll hear from Fresh, Fried, & Crispy host Daym Drops on the beginning of his wild career (and the viral Five Guys video that kickstarted it all) all the way through his collaboration with Netflix.
Growing up, I was never a kid that enjoyed leftovers. My mother would literally make something different for me every night, except I did have that one dish that I had to have every week. Besides that, she'd always come up with something new, and she'd ask me: "Hey, what do you think about this? Could we do this again?" And I would break down whether I liked it or not, and what it was about the dish I did or didn't like. So in a way, I was always thinking of food differently. And that became even more apparent when YouTube came around in 2005; that was the perfect opportunity to explore [thinking about food] even more.
I would watch Adam Richman on Man v. Food on The Travel Channel back in 2008 and I'd think: "This man has the perfect job. He gets to travel, he gets to eat, and he gets paid for it. I would love that job." And when I'd turn to YouTube even then, there was nobody else doing food reviews. So folks would tell me about a spot and I’d get in my car and drive there. I would give my opinion of it. It wasn't just, like, if something was bad, I'd say, "Oh, this is bad." I broke down why it was bad. Or if it was amazing, I would break down why it was amazing. Again, it was something I'd been doing all my life anyway; but now I had a platform to put my voice out there. [In hindsight,] I was literally the very first channel to do food reviews and in-car food reviews.
The response was immediate. Once folks knew that I was going to different fast food establishments, I would have employees hit me up saying, "Daym, listen, next week we have this particular item coming out. Look out for it." I would create a rapport with my local Subway, my local McDonald's, my local Burger King. A lot of times I was able to get things before they even released to the public and do the review just to be on top of it. I was the secret menu before the secret menu existed. That's what it was.
And while I knew I was doing something special, I had no idea any of my videos were going to blow up. All I knew was that when [Five Guys] gave me my double cheeseburger for my video, they added bacon. I never asked for bacon but they added it. So it gave it extra crunch, extra saltiness, extra flavor that really got me excited. I put excitement into the screen in a different way than I'd ever done before. I felt more of a joy while filming for this particular burger because it was so different from every other burger I reviewed previously. I wanted to make sure that that came across on the screen! And then I had a Cajun fry for the first time. I saw the grease stains on the bag. I mentioned the ghetto grocery bags because when I was going to school, we would have to cover our bag in Stop & Shop paper bags, right? It reminded me so much of that. Everything that came to me from my childhood to that point in time in 2012, I put out there. I laid it all on the table.
Three months later, it blew up—I didn't expect for it to. But I knew that it was [a different caliber of video] because that was my very first one that organically already had 5,000 views before it blew up.
That's when life changed for me. The numbers went crazy because of Reddit and because of the Gregory Brothers doing the "Oh My Dayum" remix. Next thing you know, I have a video that's close to 11 million views now of me just talking about a double bacon cheeseburger. And the song has over 40 million hits. That's crazy to think about still to this day.
As for replicating that success, there will never be another video, in my personal opinion, that can break down a [food] in quite the same way I was able to do back in 2012. I can't even recapture that! What I do recapture, to this day, is the fact that I take food seriously in a different way—I want to have fun with food. I don't necessarily play with my food, I just speak to it differently. And people love that. They get joy out of it because they know how much fun I'm having. And that's why I think I've been able to grow.
I knew things were going to be different when Dr. Oz's people reached out. That was my very first opportunity to do something televised and it was with Dr. Oz! Of course, [he] is all about being healthy. He wanted me to change the way I was doing food reviews. Like, "You're an internet sensation now, you got a lot of kids watching. Do you think we could review more fruits and veggies?" That was Dr. Oz's thing. I came back for a few episodes.
But during my Dr. Oz time, I ended up with a television show on Travel Channel called Best Daym Takeout. It was another opportunity I couldn't believe! Next thing I know, I'm doing exclusive food reviews for Late Night on Jimmy Fallon and that was from 2013 to 2014. That's how Rachael Ray found me. Later in 2014, I ended up going to The Rachael Ray Show. We did a food review in NYC. And literally by the end of that episode, she told me: "I have big plans for you, stay by your email."
That email was from their lawyer. She signed me as her personal food correspondent, and I ended up doing five seasons with the show. And all of this is amazing, but I also remember another [pivotal] moment: October 25th, 2012. I was able to walk away from my job as a buyer for CarMax and work for myself. It's been that way ever since.
There was more I wanted to do in the televised space. But who doesn't? When your dreams go that big in the world of entertainment, you end up saying to yourself: "I have something I just want the rest of the world to know." I kept taking on all these opportunities—in fact, I ended up on Wahlburgers on A&E because of a food review I did of one of their restaurants in Boston. I didn't like their French fries and I said so. The fries were weak, they were tasteless! I ended up changing the fries for the entire company because of my YouTube food review. Wild, right?
These are the moments that stand out, the ones where you realize your voice matters. It's one thing to be out there working every single day, talking about food, writing about food, and showcasing food. But for individuals higher in the food chain to notice what you're doing and for voices larger than yours to say: "Hey, listen, you got to watch for this guy because he's the next up and coming?" Those affect you differently. I didn't come from a culinary background. I don't have any experience in that field whatsoever. I'm no chef. I do not cook. I'll make a ham and cheese, maybe. But the one thing I do have? I do what I do well and I can be off and do it anywhere.
So, yeah, I want people experiencing food differently. And if it happens on TV, great! When Netflix came around, it really clicked for me. We're 11 years in and Netflix seen something!? I was able to do what I've been doing—my passion—for years. I was able to put it out there on the number-one streaming service.
So Netflix wanted a show that had everything to do with fried food. One of the employees at Ugly Brothers Studios, it turned out, had been following me for years. When she caught wind of what Netflix wanted to do, she said: "I have the perfect person" and started showing them my YouTube videos.
Listen, I've gotten all types of pitches over the years from different networks wanting to do this, that, and the third. I ignored a lot [of them] because they just weren't me. I had my time on The Travel Channel and I'm thankful for the experience, but all of me wasn't in that show. And I told myself I wasn't going to do anything else for anyone else unless I could be me: the guy who loves food, who's so passionate about it. But because I got to showcase foods I loved—foods that, most importantly, come from mom and pops that are going through a rough time—I loved the idea of it. Fresh, Fried and Crispy was born.
I'm nobody special, but I am the guy you've been watching for the past 11 years. Whether it was on Rachael Ray, whether it was YouTube—whatever. You know I'm approachable. You know that you can sit down with breakfast, lunch, and dinner with me and we can talk about anything.
I want to continue growing. I want for other moms and pops out there to get the same exposure, the same light. Because the best part about shooting the show for me is when the owners reached back out to me to show me pictures and videos of their spots being packed because of the Netflix series. They're excited. I'm excited! We got something here.
Believe it or not, my favorite bite of the season was actually in Baltimore. It was the colossal crab sandwich at the Local Oyster. That was the most massive monstrosity fried goodness that I could break down because we're talking about buttery Texas toast. We're talking about bacon that's extra crisp. I removed the lettuce and tomatoes and replaced them with potato chips. That's what folks there do—they put potato chips on their sandwich.
But listen, my thing is this: Everyone can do what I do.
My days right now are a blur. I wake up in the morning, I'm answering a lot of DMs, a lot of emails. Asks have increased because of the show, which is great. But then, of course, I'm still filming for my YouTube. So I can't forget to do that. I do a lot of radio spots and filming in New York. But I'm also promoting my new food app, which allows you to become a food critic wherever you live. It's literally called Restourant.
But listen, my thing is this: Everyone can do what I do. As long as you're eating, you know what you like about food. You don't have to have the most eloquent person to be able to break something down. I want you to close your eyes for a moment. People overthink with their eyes open! Close your eyes while you're chewing whatever you're chewing right now and say whatever you feel. It might be different than what I feel when I have the same exact meal...but what you're experiencing? That's your moment.
Fresh, Fried, & Crispy's first season is streaming now on Netflix.
Tess Koman covers breaking (food) news, opinion pieces, and features on larger happenings in the food world. She oversees editorial content on Delish. Her work has appeared on Cosmopolitan.com, Elle.com, and Esquire.com.
Daym Drops is a YouTuber, food critic, and the host of Fresh, Fried, & Crispy on Netflix.